Last year, I managed to find the winner of this race - Beware The Bear - on Sunday, when his odds were 20/1. This morning, the 48hrs declarations came out for the opening day of the Festival, and with this information in mind, I am taking an in-depth look at the Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f to be run on Tuesday.
One of the best handicap chases of the season, we will have 24 runners going to post - so we have to sort out the possibles from the impossibles. I will look at this the same as last year.
Since 2001, of the 18 winners, 9 have been "last-time-out" (LTO) winners.
The "mean" number of days since that previous race for winners of this handicap is 30 days - so it is very important that your selection has had a recent run, and a good one at that. Beware The Bear ran 70-days before winning this, and only Wichita Lineman (94 days in 2009) and Joe's Edge (114 days in 2007) won off a longer break.
Horses aged 9yo or older can win this race, but it is more likely the winner will be aged 7yo & 8yo.
I avoid horses which last ran before Christmas Day this season, as it is very difficult to win top competitive races at the Festival off such a long break - not impossible, but very difficult; which rules out Vinndication (129 days); Brave Eagle (101 days); Atlanta Ablaze (94 days); Soupy Soups (122 days).
Horses with more than 15 chase runs are probably too exposed to win a handicap as competitive as this, so that rules out Cepage (17 runs); Vintage Clouds (23 runs); Cogry (33 runs); Townsend (17 runs); and Cobra De Mai (24 runs).
Those horse's that remain, let's look at in some detail:-
Mister Malarkey - ticks a lot of boxes, LTO winner, ran 17-days ago, won a 3-miles, wears cheekpieces (7 of the last 8 winners have worn some form of headgear), prominent runner. On the shortlist.
Kildisart - not won since beating Mister Malarkey at Aintree and looks out-of-form.
Discorama - hasn't won a 3-mile chase and looks one paced. Likely to fill the places.
Who Dares Wins - hasn't raced beyond 2m4f , let alone won, an unlikely winner.
Activial - 6th last year off OR151, so off OR145 will be thereabouts if in the same form - but he's not.
Mulcahys Hill - has won over 3-mile, but it wasn't a strong race, and he was easily beaten LTO.
Burbank - another who ticks the boxes, his win at Newbury in December over 2m6f was decent, but he struggled at Doncaster next time out. Wears blinkers, potential stamina doubt.
Big River - 4th in this last year off OR140, so interesting off OR141 especially having won LTO. But he was mainly passing beaten horses last year, and at 10yo he's not a likely winner.
The Conditional - 5th in the 2-mile Arkle last year (well beaten) he's looked a better horse over 3-miles, but his improvement has stagnated. Wears 1st-time pieces, and that may result in a repeat of Ladbroke Trophy run. On the shortlist.
Elwood - I was disappointed that Gordon Elliott did not keep Shattered Love in this handicap, so that he's only this 6yo running is interesting, except that the form of the horse is ordinary and he makes a lot of mistakes.
Quarenta - if he'd won the Class 2 handicap at Kempton on the 27th Dec (btn a head) he'd be about 3lb heavier. He's proven at the trip, on the ground and is on the upgrade, and Jonjo O'Neill knows how to prepare one. On the shortlist
No Comment - fell LTO (not a good sign), and could not win the Kim Muir off OR138 last year, so I'm not sure he's well handicapped on OR137, but could be placed.
Vivas - not won beyond 2m5f, and attempts at 3-mile have been poor.
Ice Cool Champs - won at Wetherby in Jan off a break of 323 days, but only beat 4 others, and flopped NTO in Feb, so maybe he's had his day this season.
The shortlist is:
MISTER MALARKEY - For me, this horse should be the fav, and that he's 12/1 is tremendous value as he was seriously considered a potential RSA horse last season.
THE CONDITIONAL - probably most likely to be placed than win, but 9/1 is fair.
QUARENTA - very interesting this one, as trainer's son rides Mister Malarkey.
I'm aware that my simplistic trend-sorter has dismissed the favourite Vinndication, but I really cannot have a horse that is both top-weight and returning from a break of 129 days.
My suggested wager is
£4 eachway & £2 win @ 12/1 (available generally, 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)
£5 eachway @ 9/1 (William Hill, 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)
£2 eachway @ 25/1 (available generally, 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)
PLUS: 6 x £1 straight-forecasts combining the above 3 to be 1st and 2nd
A small stake, but potentially high return (if I'm right)
At this time, I also like to fall-back on a couple of renowned shrewdies who take an alternative view to my own (which is purely form-based):
they are Marten Julian - who has his contacts up & down the country and here's the whispers that many of us learn AFTER the race has been won, and
The Mathematician - who has long-delved into the statistics of horseracing, but sorts the wheat from the chaff, and finds nuggets of pure gold, he is currently offering a Cheltenham Festival Deal which includes Aintree and is well-worth taking advantage of.
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Monday, 9 March 2020
Cheltenham Tuesday - the Ultima Handicap Chase
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